It’s About Time

Jim and Michelle in future kitchen

It’s been almost six months since my last post, Auld Lang Syne. That post was a 2023 review and, thus, written in a neutral tone. This post is just Jim, giving a quick update on the status of Michelle’s and my life. The reason for the lengthy span between posts is that there just wasn’t much to report that was new. Previous posts, especially this one, detailed our intention to build a new home and leave our forever home on Marquette Boulevard.

We visited Rapid City in January for a late Christmas with Michelle’s family. Never again in January. It was somewhere around -10F the entire time we were there. Unfortunately, I still have cold weather to look forward to this year since I have a niece getting married in Cleveland in late October AND I’ve been asked to guest-conduct the Parma Symphony in early December. So….

After returning from Rapid City and thawing out, we readied our home to place it on the market for sale. The worst time to sell our home. High interest rates, rising insurance rates, over-population, and an increasingly rabid right-wing political scene; have combined to make Florida a less desirable permanent home for many.

But we had no choice. We rented a storage unit to declutter. We fixed and painted-up. We began to live like renters in our own home. Every three days (on average) we had strangers traipsing through. Excruciating. For four months! We received several offers, some of them insulting. We were under contract several times, only to have contingency deals fall through or other issues stop the sale. Finally, as we approached June, we received an offer from someone who really wanted the property. The bottom line was far less than we had hoped for, but the market forces were against us. We accepted, just to have closure and move forward.

In many ways, we have felt displaced and unsettled since September 28th, 2022. The hurricane, Michelle’s sister’s death, rebuilding, clearing a path through the ensuing finances; have all created a sense of displacement. We are always thinking “what next?” In late July we will leave Marquette for a two-month rental home in Cape Coral, hoping that our Babcock home will be completed by mid-September.

There are many, MANY mixed feelings. We don’t wish to leave but feel compelled to do so. We’ll so miss the canal – even though it carries the threat of flooding. As recently as May 1st we were visited by a pod of manatees who spent close to an hour outside our back door. We leave behind the Key Lime tree planted in December of 2018 – it has never stopped producing fruit.

This all seems gloomy, but it really isn’t. There are wonderful things.

The morning sunrises and evening sunsets continue to be spectacular. The sky has a particular color of blue that is unique to this place. When it rains, it is still warm. Everything is green, and flowers are always blooming. Our lanai looks like a jungle as the plants just keep growing. We have a rosemary bush that is at least four feet wide and four feet high. The bougainvillea are always flowering. Michelle gets to see baby calves running around every day she drives to work since cows calve all year round.

We’ve watched in awe as our new home rises from the ground. It was well on pace to be finished by July, but everything has ground to a halt for the last month as they await flooring tile. Everything that can be accomplished while waiting has been done, but now the builders are at the mercy of the suppliers. We have thousands of photos, far more than can be posted here, but here are a few that document the process.

Our daughter Rachel is moving to Florida! She and her boyfriend Parker are moving to an apartment complex in Punta Gorda, just north of Fort Myers. They’re excited to begin a new chapter in their lives, and we are happy that they will be closer to us.

Michelle’s job as the Assistant Clinical Director at the Florida Civil Commitment Center continues to challenge and gratify her. Michelle is changing the ways things have been done to make better clinical work. She is reducing clinician work stress, corporate liability, and resident failure. Proud of her. Still working too hard, but hopefully, there will come a time of better balance.


At Total Wine, I am mentoring two other colleagues as they attempt to pass the examinations for the Total Wine Professional program. There are several areas of the store that have become my responsibility: Burgundy, Alsace, Rhone, Germany, Austria, Tuscany, Piedmont are among them. I also have the joy of maintaining what I refer to as “the Black Hole”, otherwise known as the Highly Rated section. This is what people first see when they walk in the store and consists of selections that have earned high ratings from various reviewers at Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Vinous, etc. Many customers rarely venture any further into the store than that. I can spend an entire shift finding items to stock there, only to have a customer come in and fill up their entire cart, leaving my shelves bare.

Photo courtesy of Jamal Carter, Asst. Manager, Fort Myers Total Wine


I’ve also begun to study for the Cicerone certification. What’s that, you ask? Beer, of course. This is an independently issued certification, not one administered by Total Wine. I decided I didn’t know enough about beer, so why not? Total Wine will pay for me to take the exam twice. If I can’t pass it in two tries, then I’m on my own. I plan to pass the first time. Learning much about original gravity, SRM, IBU, and top vs. bottom fermenting.

So, “what about music?” you might ask. We don’t sing. Church choirs are out. I work every Sunday and Michelle often goes to work on Sundays as well, so she has flex time off when I’m not working. But music isn’t completely forsaken.

I still do transcriptions and editions. My brother-in-law, Randolph Laycock (Ph.D. in music from Case Western) is the long-time director of the Parma Symphony. For his holiday concert in early December, he often features the individual sections of the orchestra – strings, woodwinds, brass – by themselves. In 2022 he asked me to arrange something for the brass. I arranged the Tschenokov Spaséñiye, sodélal (Salvation is created) and Rachmaninov Bogoroditse devo (Ave Maria); completing score and parts and getting them off via email just minutes before Hurricane Ian blew out our electricity and then flooded our home. My attention was elsewhere when the orchestra performed the music (I’m told it went well).

This year he requested another piece for the brass. There are many thousands of public domain compositions that lend themselves to brass transcription (hello, anything from the Venetian School – Gabrielis, Schütz, et al).

But no, I decided to do something that requires 1) asking a living composer permission to mess with his creative work, and 2) navigating the minefield of obtaining permission from the copyright holder to make such an arrangement. Sheesh.

Frank LaRocca is a vastly under-recognized living American composer whose niche is traditional Roman Catholic Latin liturgy. If you have never experienced his music, do some internet searches and listen. It is beautiful, intense, complex, and engaging. Even his infrequent forays outside sacred music are amazing (check out America, the Beautiful). LaRocca’s setting of O magum mysterium is a masterpiece and I long thought that it might lend itself well to a brass transcription.

Luckily, Frank was open to me potentially hacking up his music. I spent two-three months obsessing over it and then tentatively sent him the score. I was relieved when he approved. Whew! Then I showed the score to Rand and he loved it. Next step, the publisher.

Walton Music. Cool. I shared a taxi with Gunilla Luboff when we were both in Stockholm to celebrate Eric Ericsson’s 80th birthday. Well, that was in 1998. Walton was sold to GIA Publications in 2013, and I know no one there. Taking a shot in the dark, I visited their website and sent an email to their VP of publications. Long story short, GIA graciously gave permission for the transcription and performance for a very minimal fee, which the Parma Symphony paid.

When the dust settled, I mentioned to Rand how I was jealous that he would get to conduct the piece. He immediately invited me to come guest-conduct the performance! I was reluctant to accept until Michelle heard about it and said, “Of course you’re going to do it!” So, here I am in June already sweating about a performance in December. Déjà vu, remembering all those summers getting ready to pull off a spectacular December concert in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral (or at St. Martin’s Academy, or the Rapid City Civic Center). Hope I can 1) find my batons, and 2) fit into my white tie and tails, and 3) survive Ohio in December.

I turn 71 next week. Michelle turned 53 in April. Rachel is now 27 and Jackson will be 31 in August. I turn your attention to the title of this post: It’s About Time. It is, indeed, all about time. Time is inexorable. Do not waste any of it. Enjoy every second. Be happy. Be as healthy as possible. Love one another. Be kind to those less fortunate.

Till next time…… 

One thought on “It’s About Time

  1. Thanks for the update! Congratulations on getting your house sold! Your new house looks like it’ll be really nice. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

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